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  • Writer's pictureBill Stauffer

Gratitude Friday 3/12/21 - Light at the End of the Pandemic Tunnel

This week marks the anniversary of when we started to shut down society a year ago. It has been something I have been reflecting on a lot as of late. I felt it coming as early as January 2020, but by March, the pandemic and its consequences were rapidly taking form. For me, it also links to a bit of a traumatic event that happened about ten days before Pennsylvania shut down. I suspect, like 9/11, we all have such stories that frame major events as part of our own narratives. These stories fascinate me for some reason. Please feel free to share your own below.

On March 6th, 2020 Julie, her sister and I went out to an Indian Restaurant in Easton. I took this photo on the way in from parking the car. This was just minutes before doing the Heimlich on another patron. Soon after sitting down, I saw a woman a few tables away choking. I was across the restaurant doing the Heimlich almost reflexively. She was tall and it did not work at first, and I started to wonder what I was going to do next. Then she coughed up the chunk of food and the whole restaurant sat back down. It sent me into an adrenal response, and I ended up with sleeplessness, lack of concentration and feeling blue for a few days. This is not uncommon. At the end of that week, I was just getting my bearings back and drove out to Western Pa for an event the next day. As I neared my hotel, the event canceled as the state shut down. I checked into a large, deserted hotel, had a dinner in an empty restaurant, woke up the next day to drive home and start the long lockdown. There was a great deal of uncertainty. It all felt quite surreal.

This last year has been a very difficult one for many, myself included. We have adapted to doing things mostly online with very little in person interaction. More than a half million Americans have been lost, hundreds of thousands of others got sick, many with long lasting symptoms. Our caregivers gave beyond where they had nothing left in the tank. Our economy has been shaken at its foundations. The world of that week a year ago is gone. We will remerge, but we our all changed, and we are living in a new world. What comes next is most certainly going to be different than what came before. I suspect there will be additional challenges moving forward, but also opportunities.

This is a post of gratitude and hope. As Spring 2021 shows its initial sprouts emerging from the thawing earth, there are also signs that we are closer to the end of the pandemic than we are the beginning. We are vaccinating America. As I have written about before, like thousands of other Americans, I have been volunteering to assist at a vaccination clinic in recent weeks. It has been therapeutic to help people get vaccinated and see the hope and relief on their faces. I hear people doing more future planning than they did a few months ago. The CDC projects we may reach herd immunity by mid-summer. Light at end of a long, dark tunnel.

If you are reading this, you have made it this far. Lots of people have lost jobs. Whole cities full of loved ones gone from this earth. But we are still standing. Collectively, our trauma is being reported by the World Health Organization as more significant than World War II. Yet, despite all this, we are in a moment of opportunity. It is my hope that we experience collective Post Traumatic Growth (PTG). There is evidence to suggest this may be in our cards. This study reported on in Science Daily of 385 caregivers in the UK and Portugal suggests that being forced to slow down life, as a consequence of lockdown, has had significant, positive impacts for many people.

Their responses fell into four key areas:

· 48% described a growth in family relationships, including spending more time together as a family, had more involvement in their children's lives, and felt closer, whilst also feeling more connected to other family members.

· 22% described feeling a greater appreciation for life, involving the re-assessment of their personal values and priorities and the opportunity to reconsider what's really important.

· 16% described spiritual growth, which involved a greater engagement with fundamental, existential issues. This included a greater appreciation for others (in particular health and essential workers), a 'stronger sense of Community' and an 'acknowledgement of inequalities' (in particular outdoor space).

· 11% described embracing new opportunities, which was reflected in comments about changes in working practice, involving positive 'changes in attitudes to home working' and the adoption of a better work/life balance.

I suspect that many of us who have lived through this very rough year will experience some form of PTG. I am grateful for the opportunity to reexamine and reprioritize. It is fascinating to consider we may do so collectively, it could bring a greater sense of purpose, healing and more unity across our society. We really could use that. Grateful for the life lessons, hopeful for the opportunity to reemerge with insights we did not have before. What are you grateful for today?

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